- 9 Ways to Instantly Strengthen Your Brain
- Exploit your weakness
- Play memory games
- Use mnemonics
- Raise your eyebrows
- Read books that push your boundaries
- Try new hobbies
- Eat better
- Get enough sleep
- 7 Natural Ways To Boost Your Brain Power & Sharpen Your Mind
- 1. Practice meditation to decrease stress.
- 2. Take up cognitive training exercises.
- 3. Exercise your body—for your brain.
- 4. Practice deep listening.
- 6. Nourish your brain with antioxidants.
- 10 Proven Ways to Keep the Mind Sharp as You Age
- 1. Exercise for a healthier mind
- 2. Read for intellectual stimulation
- 3. Eat healthy to stimulate your brain
- 4. Strive for good posture
- 5. Get plenty of sleep to improve memory
- 6. Play games or draw
- 7. Listen to music or play an instrument
- 8. Learn a foreign language to boost cognitive functioning
- 9. Find a new hobby to strengthen your brain
- 10. Write frequently
9 Ways to Instantly Strengthen Your Brain
Even though the brain is an organ, rather than a muscle, you can still give your brain a workout. Just as with a muscle, repetitive tasks can dull or even damage your mental acuity, while new challenges and activities can strengthen your brain and even make you measurably smarter. Get ready for your workout!
Exploit your weakness
This first challenge will seem counterintuitive, but there’s good science to support it. If you’re a morning person who's most productive and alert early in the day, try tackling a creative task late at night, and vice versa for you night owls.
You’ll discover that this stress on your brain—asking it to work hard at a time when you usually don’t—can yield surprisingly good results.
It works best for creative tasks, rather than analytic tasks, and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish when you work at what isn’t your typically optimum time.
Play memory games
Whether it’s a low-tech matching game or a high-tech solution Lumosity, actively working to improve your memory produces measurable results. Memory really is key to not just appearing, but also being smart.
Imagine if you could recall everything you’ve ever learned.
That may never happen, but if you can train your brain to be able to recall even a small portion of the things you’re currently forgetting, you’ll be smarter and more efficient.
Mnemonics work, and they also help to stretch your brain to create and use new associations.
Working on remembering the names of people you’ve just met, for example, can include associating their name with their profession or their interests.
Andrew the architect or Louise the lawyer forces your brain to work just a bit harder and results in you not fumbling for that name when you need to make an introduction—win-win!
Raise your eyebrows
Trust me. While you may want to practice this tip privately rather than on the subway, you’ll be pleased. You may feel silly, but as soon as you try this tip, you’ll understand exactly what I mean. Raising your eyebrows opens your eyes wider, resulting in a slight adrenaline boost. You’ll instantly feel brighter and more alert.
Read books that push your boundaries
It’s okay to take small steps on this one, but reading is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Maybe you just commit to turn off the TV (which is much more passive than reading) and pick up a book—any book—once in a while.
Perhaps you branch out from your usual style of book. The point is to read something that’s different from your usual fare because if you broaden your reading horizons, you’re getting smarter.
Swap your usual sci-fi for history occasionally, or trade your fluff for a classic from time to time. The point is to get your reading rut.
Try new hobbies
Experiment with new enterprises that direct your focus and attention in a way that’s new to you. Mastering a new mechanical task—anything from knitting to tennis—develops new territory in your brain. Any new challenge you undertake will create new associations and force your brain to accommodate new information and new routines.
Organs require nourishment—ideally you should strive for a balanced diet, because a brain that’s starving isn’t growing. Even healthy, well-nourished folks can benefit from additional help from time to time, and supplements ginkgo biloba can help improve your concentration, improve your memory and increase your attention span.
Exercise improves absolutely everything. Not only will you feel better if you get regular exercise, but exercise improves circulation throughout your body, moving protein and nutrients to your brain. Strong body, strong mind!
Get enough sleep
exercise, adequate sleep improves every facet of your life. Operating with a sleep deficit can actually be dangerous, and in fact, studies have demonstrated that sleep deprivation can result in symptoms that mimic intoxication.
One technique that can specifically increase your brain activity while you sleep is to eat a small snack before going to sleep—something with a little natural sugar, a piece of fruit.
That snack will keep your brain more active while your body rests up, and that active brain will be growing stronger.
Thinking of your brain as a muscle is actually a great analogy, even if it’s not technically accurate. If you don’t exercise a muscle, it weakens; it atrophies. If you exercise that muscle in exactly the same way over and over, day in and day out, the muscle won’t atrophy, but it won’t grow or develop.
If you consistently use that muscle in new ways, though—if you stretch it, push it and challenge it, you’ll grow that muscle and make it stronger. That’s exactly the way the brain works. Challenge your brain in new ways as often as possible, and you’ll be stronger and smarter than you were the day before.
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Photos from top: Thinkstock
7 Natural Ways To Boost Your Brain Power & Sharpen Your Mind
Sure, there's not much you can do to stop time. You can, however, improve the quality of your life within the time you have by keeping your mind sharp and improving your memory. From eating the right foods to practicing «deep listening,» here are some simple ways to keep your brain healthy and vibrant:
1. Practice meditation to decrease stress.
Studies shows that chronic stress can damage the brain, so you can help protect and strengthen your brain by engaging in activities or lifestyle habits that decrease the firing of your stress response.
One of the best ways to do this is through developing a meditation practice, even if it's just 10 to 20 minutes a day.
You can practice breath-focused exercises, mindfulness meditation, yoga, tai chi, or engage in a spiritual practice or ritual, prayer.
2. Take up cognitive training exercises.
The mind stays sharp when the plasticity of the brain is maintained. Brain plasticity refers to the brain's ability to constantly change over the course of a person's lifetime. And this plasticity can be maintained—and better yet, improved—by engaging in cognitive training exercises, which challenge your intellectual capacity.
You can take up playing chess, learning a new language, or juggling. And playing boardgames can stimulate your thinking, as well as your hand-eye coordination. You can even do something simple learn a new direction to drive to work, type or scroll with the opposite hand, or combine your senses by eating while listening to music with your eyes closed.
3. Exercise your body—for your brain.
Research shows that physical exercise enhances cognitive function. One reason might be because it increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves learning, memory, and higher thinking by stimulating growth of new neurons and helping existing neurons stay alive.
Walk outdoors where the terrain isn't predictable so that you're perfecting your balance and working your foot-eye coordination at the same time.
Yoga and tai chi also enable you to practice coordination, flow of movement, balance, and the engagement of different muscle groups.
And don't forget to fit in some aerobic exercise as well, getting your heart rate up for at least 15 minutes a few times a week.
4. Practice deep listening.
Any time you're engaged in activities that require communication, your neurons need to fire and synapses need to function. Injury to the brain and even too much stress can challenge this communication highway and make speaking, listening, understanding cues, and integrating information more difficult.
Just a meditation practice can lower the activation of the stress response and therefore quiet the mind, you want to get into the practice of regularly quieting the mind so that the neurons can do their job of communicating.
I call this practice «deep listening,» where you allow yourself to take a pause and a deep breath. This provides you with the space you need to fully hear words and take in the nuances. The tenets of this practice are:
- Do not rush when communicating. Wait; take a pause.
- Breathe. Inhale deeply and exhale completely, allowing the mind to quiet.
- Listen with your heart. Notice how words make you feel. Try to engage all of your senses.
- Write first. If you feel emotionally charged, you may want to jot down what you're feeling to help gain clarity before you speak out.
- Find a safe place to rant. You can choose a friend, therapist, or counselor you know you can safely speak to without worrying that you might be judged. You will find that when you release whatever is pent up, you can more easily listen and communicate.
A diet high in sugar can be harmful to the brain, inducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and poor insulin regulation. Your goal, therefore, is to follow a diet that helps you improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation. This means eating fish, some meat, a lot of vegetables, some nuts and seeds, some fruit, and very little grains.
6. Nourish your brain with antioxidants.
Your brain benefits not only from a low sugar intake but also from getting more antioxidants, which can help improve your memory, learning, and overall cognitive performance.
Antioxidant-rich foods include berries (especially blueberries); fruits and vegetables carrots, spinach, and red grapes; and drinks green tea, red wine, and coffee; as well as dark chocolate (in moderation, of course).
We've all had that moment when we're sleep-deprived and can't remember where we put the keys or what we went into the kitchen to get. You can't fully operate when you're sleep-deprived—and this includes your cognitive skills, memory, and ability to think clearly or communicate.
If you don't feel well rested, see if you need more hours of sleep or if it's a question of improving the quality of sleep.
Consider getting a Fitbit or other gadget that monitors how restfully you're sleeping, or have a sleep study done by your doctor. You may find that you simply have to wake up too early to get the right number of hours in.
If this is the case, consider taking naps, which can help you catch up on those zzz's.
10 Proven Ways to Keep the Mind Sharp as You Age
Just as exercise improves your physical health, brain workouts strengthen your mind, boosting your memory and thinking skills. Even better, it’s never too late to begin exercising your most important muscle. Read on for 10 easy ways to stimulate your brain.
1. Exercise for a healthier mind
Your mind and body are interconnected so, often, what benefits the body benefits the brain. Regular exercise, even taking a simple walk, goes a long way toward improving your memory and cognitive skills, according to Dr. Scott McGinnis, an instructor in neurology at Harvard Medical School.
In fact, the foot’s impact during a walk sends pressure waves through the arteries, increasing blood flow and resulting in a healthier mind, according to researchers at New Mexico Highlands University. Try adding some of these physical activities to your daily or weekly routine to boost blood flow to your brain:
- Hiking on nearby nature trails
- Tennis or pickle ball
- Walking your dog
- Yoga or tai chi
- Water aerobics
2. Read for intellectual stimulation
In a study in the journal Neurology, regular reading and writing in late life reduced the rate of memory decline by 32%.
Make reading more of a habit by:
- Joining or starting a book club through your church, temple, or local library or bookstore.
- Reading to your grandchildren in person or via FaceTime or Skype.
- Subscribing to a favorite magazine or local newspaper.
- Setting aside a time each day for reading.
- Reading only what you — it’s OK to give up and choose something else.
3. Eat healthy to stimulate your brain
You may know that nuts, fish, and red wine have been linked to a healthy brain. For an extra brain boost, try including these foods in your diet, suggests Healthline:
- Salmon is filled with Omega-3 fatty acids, major building blocks of the brain.
- Green tea improves alertness and focus. It’s rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, and has been linked with a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
- Eggs have many nutrients tied to brain health such as B6, B12, folate, and choline. Choline helps create a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which helps regulate mood and memory.
- Blueberries have antioxidants, which have been shown to improve communication between brain cells, delay short-term memory loss, and reduce inflammation.
4. Strive for good posture
If your mother or teachers told you to sit up, they were right to — maintaining an upright posture improves circulation and blood flow to the brain. Here are three ways to improve yours:
- Sleep with your spine aligned: Sleeping on your back or side is generally less stressful on your spine, according to Cleveland Clinic. In back sleeping, gravity keeps your body centered over your spine. If you sleep on your side, keep your head in neutral posture with your chin straight ahead.
- Improve your balance: Staying balanced reduces the risk of falls and benefits the spine. Try online or in-person yoga for beginner’s classes to improve balance.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying extra weight adds stress to your muscles and makes it more difficult to maintain proper posture.
5. Get plenty of sleep to improve memory
Sleep problems can lead to trouble with memory, concentration, and other cognitive functions, says the National Institute on Aging. Memories and newly learned skills move to more permanent regions of the brain while you sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). This makes them easier to recall.
Adults 65 and older should aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night, says the NSF. If you’re between the ages of 26 and 64, seven to nine hours nightly is a good goal.
Struggling to get to, or stay, asleep? Try these tips:
- Stay consistent: Pick a bedtime and stick with it — a routine will help you sleep better overall. This also includes setting a regular time to wake up on weekends.
- Avoid heavy food: Large serving sizes can irritate your stomach, causing you to lose sleep. Instead, when you’re hungry at night, have small snacks nuts or slices of fruit.
- Limit stimulants: Try to avoid coffee, cola, cigarettes, and chocolate for up to four to six hours before bed.
- Limit alcohol: Alcohol disrupts REM and slow-wave sleep, which are important for memory. It’s best to avoid alcohol four to six hours before bed.
6. Play games or draw
Paint, color in an adult coloring book, or grab a pen and paper and draw. Whether it’s a masterpiece, or a mere doodle, making something artistic is an intellectual workout.
Games are another simple way to sharpen and stimulate your mind. Here are a few fun games for your brain:
7. Listen to music or play an instrument
Many people find listening to or playing music enjoyable, but that’s not the only benefit — it also improves memory function in older adults, according to a 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology. Finding your favorite tunes, or learning to read or play music is easier than ever thanks to versatile platforms and technology:
Our advisors help 300,000 families each year find the right senior care for their loved ones.
- : A classic way to search for your favorite songs, music videos, or instrument tutorials. You can listen to your favorite songs while learning to play them.
- Spotify: A popular platform that includes new and older songs from all around the world. Create playlists easily, and listen to your favorite songs anytime you want.
- Pandora: Stream music for free and check out new artist or song recommendations. You can easily discover new music artists you already and build your catalog.
- Take Lessons: Schedule a lesson online or in-person with an instructor at a price that works for you. Group lessons are available too, so you can learn with loved ones.
8. Learn a foreign language to boost cognitive functioning
Even if international travel isn’t in your plans, learning a new language can be beneficial. It improves cognitive functioning in older adults, according to a review of several studies in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
9. Find a new hobby to strengthen your brain
Learning a craft or skill can stimulate your mind, relieve boredom, and liven up your daily routine. Many colleges and senior centers offer engaging, low-cost lectures and classes for older adults. Whether you’re learning a new recipe, beefing up your computer skills, ongoing education is a surefire way to stay sharp. What interests you?
10. Write frequently
Writing improves working memory and communication abilities. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you write because simply expressing yourself will boost your brain activity. These 9 easy writing exercises can jumpstart your creative energy. Have fun, and enjoy a brain workout by writing one of the following:
- Creative stories
- Song lyrics
- Handwritten letters
- Blog posts
Although there are no clinically proven ways to reverse the course of brain diseases Alzheimer’s, these tips may help combat normal, age-related mental decline. By continuing to find unique ways to stimulate your brain, you increase the odds your brain will thrive for years to come.